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Trying skin cycling for the first time

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SEPTEMBER 26, 2022

One night as I was aimlessly scrolling through TikTok, I stumbled upon a creator sharing her secret behind her incredibly clear skin. As someone who enjoys her fair share of skincare, I was immediately enthralled. This creator went on to explain the process of “skin cycling” — something I had never heard of before. I immediately knew I had to look into what this skincare routine was.

That’s when I found Dr. Whitney Bowe’s TikTok account, where she goes over every detail of what skin cycling is. As a certified dermatologist, she created this entire process of skincare that immediately gained traction as having positive results. I knew I had to try this skincare routine out — but before I go into my honest experience with skin cycling, let me explain what the process is.

According to Dr. Bowe, skin cycling is a four-day process. You typically keep up with your usual morning skincare routine — cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen — and all the important stuff from skin cycling happens at night. So, this is how it works.

The first day of your routine is called “Exfoliation Night,” and it’s exactly as the name suggests. For this night, you want to focus on exfoliating your skin — Dr. Bowe suggests using glycolic acid. You want to add your exfoliant between cleansing and moisturizing. Exfoliation should get rid of any dry skin, reduce dark spots, clear pores, and more. As a reminder, when exfoliating it’s vital that you use sunscreen during the day since your skin becomes more sensitive to the sun.

The second night of skin cycling is called “Retinoids Night.” During this night, you want to focus on using retinoids or retinol on your skin. Like exfoliation, you want to add this product between cleansing and moisturizing. Retinoids are meant to reduce fine lines and overall improve your skin tone. And as a disclaimer, you do not want to use retinoids while using any kind of exfoliant — which is why these are on two different nights.

The third and fourth nights are called “Recovery Nights,” and these are nights you want to allow your skin to absorb and take a break from any other products. Usually exfoliants and retinoids should not be used too frequently, which is why these recovery nights are essential. On these nights, you want to really take care of and hydrate your skin. You can do this by doing your average cleanser and moisturizer routine — and to really add to your recovery night, Dr. Bowe suggests adding a little bit of jojoba oil to really hydrate your skin barrier.

As you repeat this process every four days, you begin the process of skin cycling and rebuilding your skin barrier.

Now that I’ve explained what skin cycling is, here is my honest and true experience doing it for the first time. To start off, these are the products I used. I kept my normal CeraVe cleanser and moisturizer I already had in my skincare routine. For my exfoliation night I used The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, for my retinoids night I used The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, and for my recover nights I used Ulta Beauty’s Pure Jojoba Carrier Oil. 

Additionally, I have combination skin with occasional big breakouts — so this is what these products did to my skin type.

So let’s start off with the pros. I saw immediate results! My skin felt so much softer after just the first cycle. After about a week, I noticed any small imperfections and pimples on my face were also gone. So this skincare routine is definitely a win for me in this department.

Now for the cons. Mind you, I’ve only been skin cycling for about a month — so, I’m sure these “cons” will improve as I continue with the routine. But if you’re looking for quick results, here is what this routine is missing. The first thing is that I still have noticeable blackheads on my nose — and I’m sure those will take a lot longer to get rid of. Also, I found that if I even missed a day or two of the cycle, I’d start breaking out again. So, that sucked. But, in all honesty, these minuscule “cons” won’t stop me from continuing and loving this skincare process.

All in all, skin cycling has proven to have some good results for me, and I’ll definitely be keeping at it. I’m hoping the very few concerns I still have will go away as time proceeds — in the meantime, skin cycling for the win!

Contact Geneva Hopwood at 


SEPTEMBER 26, 2022